Instagram’s downward spiral | Webster Kirkwood Times


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| photo by Annie George of The Kirkwood Call


Kirkwood High School senior Edie Wheeler sits on her bed amid the COVID-19 lockdown, scrolling through her phone.

She sees videos of people exercising and doing two week abdominal challenges while she sits and trying to relax for those long months. It’s no surprise that she soon feels like she’s lazy and not doing enough. She begins to compare her body and her own productivity to those she sees on the internet, which leads to a downward spiral of negativity.

“I saw people on social media doing Chloe Ting challenges and ‘Watch me try to lose weight in my 40s’ videos, and so I started doing all these workouts,” he said. said Wheeler. “Everyone was losing weight and eating healthy, so … I stopped eating.”

Unfortunately, Wheeler’s story is not uncommon. In recent studies, social media – and in particular the Instagram platform – has been shown to target teenage girls more unfavorably than ever before. As Instagram popularity rates skyrocket, girls’ self-esteem is plummeting.

As Instagram continues to grow, so does the content advertised to women. The platform is full of people posting photos in which they have altered their body and appearance, which has created artificial content that is free for everyone. As this toxicity persists, so does the number of girls with severe negative self-image issues.

Amanda Ralston, senior at Kirkwood High School, said seeing other people posting unrealistic and edited content can make her aware of her appearance.

“What’s really contributed to my eating disorder is seeing all of these people (posting) and comparing myself to them,” said Ralston. “A lot of people post ‘What I eat in a day’ and I think it’s really easy to compare.”

Many girls say Instagram has contributed to, if not caused, their eating disorders. Facebook studies show that 32% of girls say that when they feel bad about themselves, looking on Instagram makes it worse. As young women consume more and more content that makes them feel less good about their bodies, they become more and more depressed. As they continue to roam the platform, they find themselves in a cycle where they come to hate their bodies even more.

Instagram can be harmful for women of all ages, not just teenage girls. Kirkwood High School counselor Sarah Esslinger has said she struggles with the insecurities social media fosters even in adulthood.

“On social media, there are all these unrealistic standards imposed on women for beauty,” Esslinger said. “It’s easy to get caught up in this and feel obligated to be a certain way. ”

Studies on Facebook also found that Instagram exacerbates mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, and 13.5% of girls say it can increase suicidal thoughts.

“I think it can cause depression in extreme cases,” said Ralston, senior at Kirkwood High. “The girls are so wrapped up in it.”

Not only does social media affect the way girls view their bodies, it can also make them feel unwanted and like they are excluded. Being able to see who everyone is with at all times tends to trick teens into thinking they’re missing out on social gatherings and dating.

“You think you have a bunch of friends and then you see people hanging out and you weren’t invited,” said Esslinger, a Kirkwood High advisor. “It sometimes becomes an unhealthy spiral. ”

Wheeler experienced it. The Kirkwood High School senior said seeing certain people in places she hadn’t been invited made her feel like she was missing something.

“I see messages and I would like to be at this event or I would like to be at this place,” she said. “It may just make me angry.”

Be aware and ask for help

Social networks play a major role in the lives of most people. The factor that gives it power is in the hands of the user.

Esslinger said that while she struggles with the negative effects of social media, she knows when to turn off her phone and recommends others to do the same every now and then.

“It’s healthy to detox completely from social media because it can be so overwhelming,” she said.

Esslinger added that it’s important for women and girls to know who they follow on social media and the type of content posted on those pages.

“Thinking about what type of accounts you follow and who is on your feed is helpful,” the advisor said.

Julie Smith, professor of media education at Webster University, also encourages girls to be informed and aware when using social media. She wants to remind them that Instagram only thrives on their time and commitment.

“I want the girls to learn the algorithms and how the ‘for you’ section of any app only exists to keep us going longer,” Smith said. “I would constantly remind him that these platforms make a lot of money for his attention and that the people who run these platforms are unelected, unaccountable and have incredible power.”

Esslinger holds a similar opinion and wants girls to know that there are always resources for help.

“I would definitely encourage anyone to talk to their school counselor. They can help any student with some of the feelings they are having, ”Esslinger said. “Simply starting with, ‘I feel like I am on the phone a lot and it has an impact on my mental health’ is a very appropriate way to start a conversation. “

And that’s exactly what Wheeler did. Realizing what made her feel so depressed, she sought help with therapy. After facing these adversities, Wheeler recommends that each girl be honest with herself and take responsibility for how she feels.

“Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes,” she said. “No one has the ability to change your perspective except yourself, so it’s important to learn to love the body you’re in.”

Caroline Steidley is a junior at Kirkwood High School. She is also an opinion writer for the school’s student newspaper, The Kirkwood Call.

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